Joe Biden poised to withdraw embattled ATF nominee David Chipman

Second Amendment

President Biden is set to pull the plug on his nomination of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to reports.

Mr. Chipman’s nomination had been stuck in limbo for months after lawmakers of both parties raised questions over his ties to the gun control advocacy group Giffords, which was founded by shooting victim and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Mr. Biden is expected to withdraw Mr. Chipman’s nomination as soon as this week, according to The Washington Post, which first reported the story.

Republicans had been deeply critical of Mr. Chipman’s work with Giffords, saying that while with the group he advocated gun control policies that were too extreme. They said that made him unqualified to run the ATF, which is tasked with enforcing federal gun laws.

Scuttling the nomination was the right call, said Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

“Mr. Chipman’s long record as a partisan, anti-Second Amendment activist raised plenty of concerns about how he’d administer federal firearms laws,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement. 

Mr. Chipman could have won confirmation if all the Senate Democrats had backed his nomination, but several of the chambers’ more moderate Democrats also raised questions about his positions.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona along with Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, would not commit to supporting Mr. Chipman.

Administration officials and Democratic leaders had opened conversations with the lawmakers but apparently could not make headway.

“We’re working on it,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said last month when asked if Mr. Chipman had the votes for confirmation.

Republican opposition to Mr. Chipman was fierce.

“The Senate has spent quite enough time flirting with this profoundly misguided nomination,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said in a speech on the Senate floor.

“It’s time the Biden administration revisit this decision and send us somebody who fits that description,” he said. “There is no way this nominee is the best the Biden administration can do.”

Mr. Chipman’s nomination has been hailed by gun control advocates, but Second Amendment groups say he has advocated for extreme positions on firearms, including banning semiautomatic firearms and magazines.

The National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, and the National Association for Gun Rights had opposed his nomination.

As a result of the opposition, Mr. Chipman’s nomination deadlocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee in June. The administration still pushed for swift confirmation.

Attorney General Merrick Garland visited the ATF headquarters in July and used the visit to advocate for the nominee’s confirmation, saying Mr. Chipman would crack down on gun violence and firearms trafficking.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki repeatedly stressed Mr. Chipman’s qualifications and emphasized that he had the president’s full support.

“The president felt quite confident in his qualifications and his ability to lead the agency at a time where it hasn’t been led for many years,” she recently told reporters.

The ATF hasn’t had a confirmed director in six years. Since 2006, when Congress made the position a Senate-approved post, it has had only one confirmed director.

Mr. Chipman is the second pick to lead the ATF to be withdrawn in as many years.

Former President Trump last year pulled his nomination of Chuck Canterbury after a disastrous confirmation hearing before the GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mr. Canterbury, the former national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, rankled senators with evasive answers during his 2019 confirmation hearing. The nomination languished for a year before Mr. Trump withdrew the nominee amid dwindling support from Republicans.

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